"Spufford cunningly maps out a literary genre of his own . . . Freewheeling and fabulous." ―The Times (London)
Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. It was built on the twentieth-century magic called "the planned economy," which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working. Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche. It's about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending.
Red Plenty is history, it's fiction, it's as ambitious as Sputnik, as uncompromising as an Aeroflot flight attendant, and as different from what you were expecting as a glass of Soviet champagne.
a hall full of Russians pressing up against a counter manned by more of the guides. ‘As you can see, it’s quite crowded, so let’s wait a moment before we go down.’ ‘Are the goods really for sale?’ said a man in a check shirt with a face from the Far East, Chukchi or Mongolian or something like that. ‘Unfortunately not,’ said Roger Taylor. ‘I’m afraid all we can do is show them to you. But I can promise you a free cup of Pepsi once we’re done in here. (It’s a kind of soft drink, ma’am.) In the
occasions when the coherence was obvious at the time. ‘Yes?’ said Boyarskii warily. ‘Made of rayon. Dyed blue. Cut and sewn at the Mayak works, but the fabric must’ve come from a supplier, first. We agree, then, that the value of the tie is determined by the work that went into it?’ ‘Of course. That’s elementary.’ ‘The value is determined by the labour of processing the cellulose, spinning the threads, dying them, weaving them, moving them to Mayak in Moscow, cutting and sewing?’ ‘Yes! I
‘What now?’ called Valentin, across the water. ‘Well –’ she said. 2. The Price of Meat, 1962 Volodya stood by the parapet at the edge of the flat roof of the city procuracy, and fought against the urge to crouch. He had been frightened since yesterday morning, and now he was terrified. The crowd was coming into view around the bend of Moscow Street. They should have been stopped by the line of tanks on the bridge at the edge of town, but somehow they had not been; they should have
sucked a peppermint lozenge. He kept a packet of papiroshki in one pocket and a pack of filter-tipped Java in the other, for offering to people, but almost alone among his acquaintance, he didn’t smoke; he found it made his voice phlegmy and unappealing. URALMASH DECLINES SUPPLY UPGRADED STRETCHER STOP URGENTEST SEEK EXPLANATION COMMA REMEDY STOP ARKHIPOV. This would be the PNSh-something-or-other stretching machine they were getting to replace the one lost in their accident; a big, big item for
had been good-looking not long ago; perhaps was still found so by his wife, judging by the rate at which they seemed to be reproducing; but the skin round his eyes was moist all the time now, like damp white suede, and he blinked a lot. Chekuskin poured him another one. ‘How’s the family?’ he asked, judging that the moment was passed when this would trigger thoughts of departure. It didn’t; it triggered storytelling, a morosely jokey account of life in wintertime in a two-bedroom flat with four